The New York Times is reporting that "starting Jan. 1, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment."
Democrats in 2009 dropped a similar proposal from the health care reform bill due to Republican opposition. The Obama administration, however, will achieve the same goal, starting Jan. 1, "through the regulation-writing process, a strategy that could become more prevalent in the next two years as the president deals with a strengthened Republican opposition in Congress."
According to the Times, Democratic lawmakers are keeping mum about the new policy for fear of provoking another furor like the one that erupted last year during the congressional health care reform debate. They are also urging their supporters not to publicize the new policy, saying that, thus far, they've been fortunate that the aforementioned policy has received scant press coverage.
According to the Times, the new policy is included "in a huge Medicare regulation setting payment rates for thousands of services including arthroscopy, mastectomy and X-rays."
The Times goes on to say that the rule was issued by Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services...
Mr. Berwick has been quoted as saying that “using unwanted procedures in terminal illness is a form of assault."
In an interview with the New York Times in April of 2009, President Obama expressed concern over the huge costs of end-of-life care, saying: "I actually think that the tougher issue around medical care... is what you do around things like end-of-life care... I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here!"